unplain jane studio

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From Point A to B

It's easy to take constructive criticism from people you trust and respect. The truth hurts when it comes from other sources.

Once I had a (insert poop emoticon) boss, who had the gift of encasing insightful comments in bitter pills. I recall one instance when we were reviewing some boring, internal process document he’d asked me to develop. After providing me with some unremarkable feedback, he said,

“The thing about you, Amy, is that you don’t just go to Point B from Point A. You always have to go from Point A to A-minus, then to A-minus-minus, then B-plus, then B-plus-plus, then to Point B. Sometimes there’s really only one step from A to B.”

The thing about me is that I’m thorough, you Son of a Biscuit.

What I really said did not include the Bisquick reference, but much like carbs for breakfast, his comment has stayed in my system. Clearly I’m digesting it still.

When the Ft. Worth Portrait Project asked me to write about a risk I’ve taken, its strategy and the results, I guffawed out loud. Long gone are the days of working for that passive-aggressive soothsayer. I’m my own boss now. Mark this assignment finished, baby, because I’m going to plagiarize my own blog.

As I scanned my own words for something brilliant to (re)say, I found plenty about taking risks, but always alongside an annoying contrarian: “averse.” In fact, I discovered that “risk aversion” is such a common topic in my writing that out of 15 blog posts, it’s the main theme of the first, second and twelfth ones and, I suspect, is lurking in several others. It’s like a boomerang. I keep giving it a good hearty toss, and it keeps whizzing back at my head.

Huh. It appears that, while the bad assy-est (yeah, look it up) risk I’ve ever taken is what I’m doing right now, I’m still trying to figure out how the heck to do it.

I mean, I know how to DO it. My business plans have business plans. I have my portfolio, inventory, supplies, business cards, 10x10 tent, art van, website, and social media presence. I have regular clients and collectors. When invited, I show my work in art festivals and group gallery shows. I read art journals and blogs, get coached and mentored, attend openings and other events.

It’s necessary for me to experience every possible aspect of an artist’s journey before I dare lay claim to the title. Isn’t it? It took time for me to become a successful communications executive, so it will take time to become the successful artist I want to be.

Last week at a networking event, I met a woman who unsurprisingly asked me what I do for a living. Surprisingly, my answer did not include the word “artist.” Instead, I floated up out of my body, looked down on the scene, and watched myself tell her that I’m a content marketer by day, fine art photographer by night. What the hey? That Me down there just told a stranger that I do art in my free time, just like I’ve been saying my whole entire life.

OK, seriously. What’s it going to take to get me to Point B?

Time to call in the big dog: Jean Piaget.

If you’ve ever heard of Pavlov and his little dog, you’ve heard about the classic stimulus-response construct of behaviorist theory, which in an oversimplified nutshell champions the notion that you are what you do. Instead, Piaget and his fellow cognitive psychologists espoused: you are what you think.

My self-driven self actualization program appears to be getting more complicated. Since the moment I launched my business and my blog, I’ve worked tirelessly to become an artist on the outside assuming it would transform me into an Artist on the inside. Some days it does. Some days it doesn’t. Most days I’m just busy.

I thought I was being thorough. It's really about making room to take risks. It always has been.

To coax the Artist within, it’s not about taking one giant leap. It’s about building moments of risky behavior into my daily routine.  Like little moments of grandeur that build over time from a whisper to a roar.

Roar

Roaring grandeur isn’t going to cogitate itself, so to begin, I developed a series of seven questions to help it along. As I drink my first cup of coffee each day, I going to ask myself one of the following:

  • How am I challenging myself to see the world differently?
  • Who is one artist that I admire and why?
  • What do I want to learn about today?
  • How can I use my creative talents to contribute to my community?
  • What is stealing away my time and attention and how can I reverse that?
  • But what if it works?
  • When someone asks me what I do, what will I say?

Because I’m thorough, you Son of a Biscuit.